Part 1: The Keys To Successful Startups

Welcome to the first blog of Kodo Startups in our startups mindset series. My name is Donavon Urfalian, and I’m the Cofounder and CEO of Kodo Startups. In these twenty-four blogs I'll be helping you cultivate the mindset that an entrepreneur and startup founder needs for success. I’ll be writing all about the ins and outs of the startup world – from big idea to launch. The aim of this series of blogs is to present you with the best available, up-to-date insights to help you understand and plan the route before you set out to scale the mountain ranges of the startup world.

The Four Key Components Of Every Startup

Let’s start our first blog off with the topic of the four key components of every startup. Generally speaking, every startup venture should have a big idea, a team, a product, and an on-going revisable plan of action called a flexiplan (a term for “flexible plan” coined by Vinod Khosla, lead investor in Google).”

1. A Big Idea

Notice that I said a BIG idea, not just any idea. Every startup venture has to start with an idea. It takes just as much time and effort to build a startup on an average idea as it does to do so on a BIG idea. So you might as well try to bring a big idea to life, rather than spending the same amount of time and energy on something less ambitious.

Believe it or not, it takes courage in the face of fear to even begin a startup, and that is the first mental obstacle you will have to overcome. After you make the decision to take action you will face the second obstacle all startups encounter: the trap of coming up with an idea to solve a problem that either does not really exist or is not substantial enough for consumers to care about. A good percentage of startups begin with failure almost guaranteed because founders dream up an idea that doesn’t provide significant value, and then try to force a market into existence. You're far better off solving a real problem that you actually have right now.

2. A Complete Team

Putting together a complete team is important. For example, a web-based startup has to have a web developer, a designer, a product manager, a project manager, and a social media care-taker. It is possible to survive with just a programmer that handles the development and a UI designer for visuals, but without a product manager, project manager, and social media person you will be significantly disadvantaged. It's crucial to remember that each team member brings with them a wealth of knowledge and experiences in their respective domains that can be drawn upon to add a depth and range to your product. That just wouldn't be possible with one or two people.

Think about casting a virtual net out into the world in order to increase the likelihood of finding the right people for your startup... If you only fish for teammates in your local lake of family and friends you are limiting your team’s potential. Consider the candidates’ technical expertise, but also soft skills, such as clear and timely communication, cultural awareness, emotional intelligence, sense of responsibility, etc. Everyone will be at different points in their lives, coming from different places, and with different priorities. It’s up to you to determine who can do the job right as well as mesh nicely with your company values.

If you yourself are not a technical person in the areas of development, design, product management, project management, or social media, then you should become proficient in one these skills before venturing into the startup world. Be warned though, you must have the talent, passion, and aptitude for your role in order to be a valuable member of your own team.

3. A Product

A product could be a physical product or an intangible product or service. It has to solve a real-world problem or take away a pain-point for the user. Remember: steer clear of ideas that solve non-existent problems, unless you're interested in non-existent profits.

If you are thinking of doing something that enters a crowded space then you are going to have to be a better, faster, and cheaper provider than whatever your competitors are offering. If your idea is more innovative then it will take you longer to get to market, since it has to go through early users who will then go on to tell others about it. Innovation is not cheap, but neither is entering a crowded market. This makes innovative ideas that disrupt existing business models a better option in general.

4. A Flexible Plan

Execution is the common word people use to describe taking action. What exactly are you supposed to do at a given point in time and how should you go about doing it? Sometimes the answer is easy – but in most cases it's a difficult thing to assess.

You have to start and fumble around here and there and make mistakes. You'll have the least amount of experience and information at a project’s start, so don't be deterred if things aren't going smoothly from the get-go... You'll learn along the way! You do have to be very careful though to avoid catastrophic mistakes that could kill a start-up, like running out of money or missing critical deadlines.

So, little mistakes are all part of the learning process, but big mistakes require planning to avoid. The smart approach is to have an on-going revisable plan of action called a flexiplan. A majority of the time in life, people make a plan in terms of what goals to accomplish, and usually stick to the plan they have made. In contrast to this, a flexiplan gives you the ability to stay flexible enough to make changes in your plan if and when unforeseen variables come along and change the circumstances of the situation. A flexiplan gives you the ability to revise your plan as needed when circumstances change and gives you the ability to remain agile in the face of unforeseen changes that may be ahead.

It is simple in theory, but is poorly executed a lot of the time. People tend to make two common mistakes when it comes to execution:

The first is that you psyche yourself out by wondering what big decisions you have to make that are life or death for your startup instead of making daily decisions. When you focus on daily decisions you are more able to solve real issues that help move your startup toward reaching its next goal. It’s also just easier to handle smaller, more manageable problems in contrast to larger, vague ones.

The second is trying to accomplish too many tasks. What will happen is that your ambitious yet unrealistic list of daily tasks will not get accomplished because you are too busy putting out unforeseen fires. Your work will just build up, and you will get overwhelmed. You will need to leave about 25% of your daily time completely open to issues that come up that you cannot plan for ahead of time.

The Startup Journey

Just as mountaineers have to have the right team, tools, and plan to climb the most difficult mountains, entrepreneurs like you have to equip themselves with every available advantage they can.

Having a big idea, a team, a product, and a flexiplan are the key components to keep in mind. But please realize that you must also have talent, passion, purpose, the discipline of being a hard worker, and most importantly the courage of your convictions to stay the course and be determined to succeed.

It may seem daunting, but with proper preparation it can be done! Read on to learn about your next steps on your startup journey, and good luck!

Did you find this article helpful? Do you have any concerns that aren't addressed, or is there something you would like more information about? Please continue the discussion below and we at Kodo will do our best to respond and maintain these blogs as living documents that reflect the realities of startup life.